Police response times affected by 'pingdemic' as staff told to self-isolate

22 July 2021, 07:18

Police forces across the country are the latest to be affected by the 'pingdemic'.
Police forces across the country are the latest to be affected by the 'pingdemic'. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Police response times have been affected by the ongoing 'pingdemic' on the NHS Covid app, with staff being told to self-isolate.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) revealed that, in some forces, control room operations had seen a higher number of staff absences compared to the national police absence rate, which stands at 7.3 per cent.

As result, there has been a rise in delayed responses to emergency calls, the NPCC explained.

Cleveland's police and crime commissioner, Steve Turner, previously warned the public that response times would continue to rise due to the 'pingdemic'.

He said the force had to cancel rest days and annual leave for some officers, as well as bringing in others from different shifts, to fill gaps caused by those having to self-isolate.

Read more: ‘Pingdemic’: Shops face increasing pressure to keep shelves stocked

Read more: Minister urges people to isolate when pinged ‘even if their wedding's the next day’

NHS Covid app pings: This is a serious situation

An NPCC spokesman said: "Nationally, the police officer and staff absence rate is 7.3 per cent.

"However, in some forces some functions, such as control rooms, are experiencing higher levels of absence.

"Absence rates in control rooms affect a police force's ability to respond promptly to calls from the public, in particular emergency calls.

"Police forces affected are guiding the public on how to contact the police while they are under strain.

"We are engaging with government about how to best resolve this issue."

Read more: 'Pingdemic': One in three Brits either abusing or deleting NHS Covid app - survey

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that a "small number" of key workers would be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if they were fully vaccinated.

It comes as the government also revealed plans for businesses to apply for staff to be exempt from self-isolation rules.

Mr Turner earlier called on the government to review the rules for emergency workers who are pinged by the NHS Covid app.

He suggested healthy emergency workers be tested daily, so they would not be taken off frontline duties straight away.

His force declined to say how many officers were off after being told to isolate, but a spokesperson said: "We're seeing an increase in demand on requests for service due to the heatwave, restrictions being lifted and the school holidays.

"We're also seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases and self-isolation across the workforce which is having an impact on the front line.

"We have put swift plans in place to ensure that we can respond to the most vulnerable in our communities and deal with 999 emergencies, however the public may experience delays in call answering for non-emergency incidents and we're asking people to use the website to report or ask for advice if they are able.

"For operational reasons we don't provide the details of current levels of sickness as part of our overall strategy to keep the public safe from interested criminals."

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